Respecting others’ religious beliefs
About a week ago, someone in the Catholic Answers forums asked whether it was possible to respect the religious beliefs of those who are not of our faith. I thought I’d post my answer here:
My $.02–if it’s even worth that much.
To get on in a religiously pluralistic world, there are two attitudes that are essential:
- Respect for each and every human being, precisely because
he or she is a human being. For those whose faith teaches that each
human being is created in the image and likeness of God, that should
be a no-brainer. But of course one need not have explicit faith to
believe that each and every human being bears tremendous dignity simply
by virtue of being human.
- A readiness to learn from others.
That doesn’t mean we have to accept teachings of other religions that
directly contradict the teachings of our own faith. But to say “What my
religion teaches is true” is not the same as saying, “My
religion is so comprehensive and teaches all there is to know about
every aspect of life, so I have nothing whatever to learn from anyone
else.” It may be that my own faith just doesn’t address a particular
area, or addresses it in passing, but doesn’t place much emphasis on it.
To take one personal example of #2: Does Christianity teach that God’s
commandments are gifts to us, intended to enrich our lives? Sure. But
because of Christianity’s tendency to emphasize grace over law, it’s
very easy in Christian circles to dismiss interest in law and
commandments as legalism. (And legalism is, of course, a real danger.)
So I can find a sense of law as gift in Christianity if I look hard
enough, but it tends not to be emphasized. I get a much stronger sense
of the gift that God’s commandments are from what I’ve begun to learn